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To see the unseen

TMGP Christmas 2014 Exhibition

November 18, 2014  •  1 Comment

This is the first exhibition with contributions from all 8 members of the TMGP network of photographers, each with their unique styles and vision of the garden; both cultivated and natural.  Nathan is a master of the 'cram' genre creating intimate views of flowers by immersing his lens in the midst of the flower bed.  Glory, Glory is an excellent example of his up close and in your face technique.  Bill is the veteran moderator of the finest Flora Gallery on the planet and one of the most experienced flora shooters on the planet.  Most of his subjects like the Bird of Paradise flower (Hatchlings) in this exhibition are from his backyard, lovingly nurtured by his wife. Kai-Hung is a radiologist and award winning digital artist who has exhibited in many museums around the globe.  KH is at the cutting edge of 3D imaging and reconstruction in both medicine and art.  He pioneered the 'rainbow technique' and is at the forefront of 'convolution' art.  His contribution 'Orchid' is a hybrid of photography and digital imaging using the rainbow rendering technique. Gigi produces some of the most artistic flora images using his favourite F22 sweet spot.  The clarity and depth of his images are clearly demonstrated in 'Osteospermum' and 'Gazania'. Larry is most active in spring, summer and autumn but prefers to settle down on his armchair beside the fireplace with a good book in winter.  However, he does not stop doing photography completely and his images of snowflakes are some of his best works.  Indeed, Larry's 'Sunset at Canadice Lake' may be an expression of his wish to sit down and enjoy a good book. In contrast to Gigi, Ram's sweet spot is the wide open aperture. Using his steely arm (he does not use a tripod), Ram produces shallow DOF images so beautifully exemplified in 'Geranium' and 'Orange Poppy'. Pat has created some of the most beautiful flora portraits that rivaled those of Feinstein.  However, his heart has now moved into the large scale garden of landscape photography. His landscape images are moody and elicit the sense of solitude in 'Point Imperial' and foreboding (made more so by the B&W conversion) in 'Barsoon'.  Gary strives to see the unseen with his X-ray techniques; presenting the beauty in nature by parring down the photographic elements to their constituent lines and form in his minimalist B&W portrait 'Lonely as Cloud'. Using the rainbow technique pioneered by Kai-hung, the CT scan of the 'Amaryllis' is rendered with vivid colour befitting this majestic flower. 

The exhibition will be held at JaaBar from 4 December till 3 Jan 2015.  Proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to the Society for Relief of Disabled Children. Everyone is welcomed to attend the opening reception on 3 December 2014.

Think Pink Art Auction

November 18, 2014  •  1 Comment

The ThinkPink Art Charity event was successfully held on 24th Oct 2014 to raise fund for the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation.  We are happy to announce that our piece "Dancing on Lollipop" was sold at the auction.

Mystical Garden Exhibition

May 24, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

We will be holding an exhibition of all the images in the Mystical Garden gallery at the Grotto Fine Art Gallery in Central, Hong Kong on Jun 25, 2014 till Jul 19, 2014 in support of the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation.  The images will be printed on a variety of media including fine art, metallic paper, aluminium and acrylic sheets.  There will also be a 3-D animation display at the exhibition.

Opening Reception: 5.30pm – 8:00pm, 25 June 2014

Meet the Artists: 11 am, 5 July 2014 

Proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation.

The artists wish to acknowledge the generous support from Canossa Hospital, Mr Tom Chan Chi Yan and his staff at the Department of Diagnostic Imaging for scanning and Dr Carrison Tong for his professional set up of 3D display.

Pupa Peeping - Unraveling the mystery of Hawkmoth metamorphosis.

July 13, 2013  •  2 Comments

Of the 3 stages of metamorphosis, the pupal stage is most intriguing.  In the larval stage, one can see the caterpillar moving around, chomping all the leaves and excreting fraps. You can also see the caterpillar growing in size from one instar to the next.  The adult butterflies or moths are of course flying around, feeding or copulating to ensure the continuation of the species.  Once the caterpillar turned into a chrysalis or cocoon, nothing much seems to be be happening on the outside.  Does the caterpillar dissolves into a soup and transform itself into a butterfly or moth as popular myth has it?  So what is really going on inside a pupa?  To find out how a caterpillar turns into an adult, one needs to be able to peep inside the pupa without disrupting the metamorphosis process....yes you guessed it, one needs to have X-ray vision!  Since I am already familiar with the use of X-ray in my floragraphy work, I applied these techniques on a pupa of a Psilogramma menephron (special thanks to lepidopterist David Mohn who donated this pupa for the advancement of science).

Serial X-ray of P. menephron pupa at day 9,12,14,16 and adult (from left to right). Top row - anteroposterior view, bottom row - lateral views. Sorry no caterpillar soup here.  

Okay, now we can peep inside a pupa but what are those structures and what does it mean?  I didn't know so its time to find out.  I first contacted Roger, who is the moth expert in HK and he referred me to Ian, the Hawkmoth expert at the Natural History Museum in London who refer me to his colleague Thomas, who together with his colleagues, recently published the development of the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly using microCT. Everyone seem to say 'Well, this is very interesting but we have not seen this before'.  My colleague KH and I then hit the books and trawled the net for whatever we can find on the anatomy and development of moth pupa.  There is actually a dearth of information on moth pupa development but after studying development in other insects including cockroaches, we now have a reasonably good idea what is happening.

Not content with just plain X-ray, I  decided to a CT scan of the pupa and enlist the help of my colleague and digital artist Dr KH Fung (if you are curious about KH, click here to read a recent spread about him in Slate Magazine).  Below is a sample of our CT images:

To take this to the next level, KH constructed 4D cine fly through where the camera dives into the pupa to take a look of the developing respiratory system. Here is an example of a view from within the pupa.Fasten your seat belt before you click the links below.  Enjoy the ride...

The above is just the beginning and there is still a lot to discover.  Oh just in case you were wondering what the pupa and caterpillar look like in  the visible light spectrum:





March 09, 2013  •  5 Comments

My pursuit of photography for charity has led me on unexpected paths. For the past 2 years, the Hong Kong Gardening Society has used my images for their calendar with a stipulation that it contributes the licensing fee to charity.  The HKGS decided to promote the study of biodiversity to school children and has recently set up a Butterfly garden at the Glenealy School.  During the opening, I had the good fortune to meet up with Lepdopterist David L Mohn who is teaching me how to raise butterflies.  Our first outing was to Tai Tam Country Park where we found several caterpillars.  This is a chronicle of the first two caterpillars under my care.

The first caterpillar we found was an Inchworm moth caterpillar (Geometridae Geometrinae Dysphonia militaris).

We also found two common faun caterpillars(Nymphalidae Amathusiinae Faunis eumeus). Both were fairly large and probably in their final instar stage. One of the caterpillars died after about 5 days from causes unknown.  The other continued to grow and develop into a beautiful butterfly.


Over the next month, I watch the caterpillars grew, shed their skin, pupated and emerged as a butterfly and moth almost at the same time.  









The plant food for the common faun is the smilax.



The inchworm feeds on Rhizophoraceae Carallia barchiata.  The Inchworm caterpillar has only one pair of prolegs.  It moves by arching its rear end by an inch in a looping gait - hence its name.

After about a week, the caterpillar hung itself upside down in preparation to pupate.  It then sheds its skin and surrounds itself in a chrysalis.

The inchworm forms a cocoon at the bottom amongst the foliage rather than hang itself like the butterfly. The outer shell hardens over the 2+ weeks.  The cocoon then softens and darkens. 

Darkening of the chrysalis signals impeding emergence of the butterfly.

Newly emerged faun butterfly still hanging on to the chrysalis.  This is what I saw when I got home from work.  I just missed its emergence.  I want to do time-lapsed photography of the process but missed them both times.  Hopefully better luck next time.

On the 18th day, the cocoon became very dark and squishy.  I suspect the moth is ready to emerge.  I set up my camera to take an image every 30 sec starting at 4 am to 6 am.  When I woke up the next morning, the cocoon was still intact.  I turned the camera off thinking that most moths and butterflies emerge in the early morning (according to the books).  Following the book is a mistake!  When I returned from work at 1 pm, I saw the cocoon had moved but I did not realise that the moth had already emerged.

The newly emerged moth is still quite lethargic and resting after emerging.  I placed it on a pot of African violets that my wife has just bought.  It stayed there for quite some time giving me ample photo opportunities. 

Apart from the obvious of learning about how to care for caterpillars and how they developed into butterflies and moths through metamorphosis, I also discovered an inner transformation in myself.  A nature photographer should not just be a casual observer of the natural world but should be an active participant in the process.  However, one should be mindful not to interfere with the process and observe the codes of conduct on collection of butterflies and moths of the Leptopterist society.  I did photograph both the butterfly and moth above in a soft tent but they were free to fly away after the process.  Both stayed the night before venturing out into the wide world the next morning.  I placed the moth in an opened cup on the terrace in the morning to sun itself.  I did see a couple of sparrows flew down to check it out.   I do not know how this pair will fair and feel a tinge of sadness by their departure which I realised is just a touch of attachment on my part.  I am sure that they have no reciprocal feeling towards me.   There is so much danger in the wide world but Nature is just like that.


Botanic Art using CT scan and reconstruction.

February 14, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Having used the mammography machine to reveal the inner details and lines in flowers (see Floragraphy gallery on this site), it is natural to explore the use of other modes of medical imaging to create botanic digital art.  I have teamed up with my colleague and award winning digital artist and radiologist Dr Kai-hung Fung for this project.  Incidentally if you google Kai-hung Fung, you will see his stunning pieces using CT scans of the human body and other biological specimens. The scans are reconstructed into 3D objects which can be manipulated and viewed from any angle including projections from within the flower of stem.  

ThistleWorm hole (Teasel)



A view from inside the teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) seedhead looking up towards the tip of the seedhead.  The blue core is the central dense core.  The overall effect is what I imaging travelling through a worm hole may look like.










Another interesting feature of this imaging technique is the ability to adjust the transparency of the outer layer to reveal underlying structures which are not seen with visible light imaging as shown below.

Clarity (Calla lillies)





Calla lilies with visible spadices.









The transparency is even more evident in the scan of the Leucadendron seedhead.

Crystal shards (Leucadendron)





Crystal shards.  If you are curious to see what this looks like in visible light photography, please visit this post on Nature Photographers Network.







The color rendering here is done using the density value for each voxel including the use of the rainbow technique algorithm.  For more images of CT scan imaging please go to my Botanic Art gallery on this site.

The potentials of the technique are not limited to 2D images shown above.  The same scan can be reconstructed and viewed on 3D monitors and 4D images where one can view the images as the 'camera' fly through and into the subjects. 

Koyo - Autumn Leaves in Tokyo

December 15, 2012  •  2 Comments

Colourful leaves (koyo) are to the Japanese autumn as cherry blossom are in Spring.  We timed our visit to Tokyo just to see the peak of the colourful display by the Gingko trees and Japanese maple trees.  We arrived at our hotel at 3:30 pm and quickly dumped our bags and headed out to Gingko Avenue (Ichicho Namiki) for the last 30 minutes of sunlight. We visited this Avenue several times as we stayed close by.  The street was always full of people coming out to enjoy the wonderful display of yellow leaves.  We saw a man carrying 2 exquisitely dressed anime dolls and carefully placing them amongst the leaves and photographing them.  Dog owners brought their pets, car lovers brought their vintage cars and bikers brought their Harley Davidsons to this Avenue to photograph them with the golden leaves.

On the second day in the late afternoon when the sun peeked out for a short period.  It looked like every man, woman and their dog was out in force walking on the yellow carpet and the Avenue was very clogged with traffic.  In Tokyo, you seldom see anyone jay walking at the pedestrian crossing but perhaps because of autumn leaves, there were even lots of people standing in the middle of this 4 lane road taking pictures.




Even in this crowded avenue, there are many photogenic opportunities like this browning leaf hanging on the trunk before it joined the rest on the floor.  I like the simplicity of this image and the contrast between the smooth waxy surface of the leaf and the deep corrugation of the dark bark.  The brown discolouration on the leaf makes it special.  Nature has a way of expressing beauty even in senescent.  OLD can be BEAUTIFUL!










Shinjuku Gyoen

There are many parks in Tokyo where one can enjoy koyo.  During our trip we visited Shinjuku Gyoen, Koshikawa Korakuen, Imperial East Garden, Rikugen and Hama Rikyu.  Our favourite garden was Shinjuku Gyoen which we visited 3 times on different days and in different lighting conditions.

Japanese people are sticklers for rules.  For example, you never see anyone talking on the phone on the subway and there is NO litter on the streets even though there are hardly any bins around.  That is why I like the bottle which has been careless tossed into the pond in this picture! Sorry for digressed.  This is the main pond showing the changing colour in the various trees.  The tall building in the background Shinjuku tower and the Cocoon tower. As you can see, the sky was heavy with cloud which is pretty much the norm for the short period we were there - so no magic hour lighting.

There are several ponds in the park.  This is a closer view of the water edge.  There was hardly anyone in the park on this day because the temperature was 2 deg Celsius and felt like 0.  Still it was pleasant to sit on that bench and take in all the colour.  I was experimenting with double exposure to give the image a softer look. I suspect the softness would not find favour with too many viewers.

Getting under the tree was just magical!  The leaves were lit by the sunshine making the colour even more vibrant.  The silhouette of the winding trunk and branches gives contrast to the light display. There was a light breeze making the leaves blur and adding movement to the image.

Getting even closer.  I like the shadow play on the leaves.  The yellow in the background is from the Gingko trees scattered throughout the park.  A particular majestic Gingko tree is seen just near the newly opened greenhouse.

This particular tree still had lots of leaves even though the ground is already covered by leaves.  I saw children picking up the leaves and tossing them over their heads. The trees in the distance are cherry trees which have shed most of their leaves.  This park is a favourite picnic spot during the cherry blossom season.

Although the aerial display of colour is impressive and attracted most of the attention, don't forget to look on the ground.  Passing by a footbridge over a stream, I saw this tranquil miniature zen arrangement.

I took my time taking this picture, a perfect scene for practising slow photography.  Taken with 105mm macro lens with polariser, tripod, mirror lock up and remote shutter opened for 10 sec.  The black rock provides just the right stage for this colour leaves.  I also like the contrast of the texture of the leaves and the rock. The leaves in the background are floating in moving water.


This is a traditional Japanese garden section with lots of Japanese maples and water features.  Like the two legged visitors, the ducks are also enjoying this park.

Opportunity like the above are rare when there is no visitor visible (except for the two ducks). Traditional features such as rock footbridge, rock lantern and winding footpath makes for a soothing stroll through this park.  Before you dive into contemplative solitude by placing yourself in the scene, there are actually 2 persons behind the central rock.  

Maple leaves and lily pads. The colour here is enhanced with the use of a polariser. Can you spot the Gingko leaf?

Koishikawa Korakuen

Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園, Koishikawa Kōrakuen) is one of Tokyo's oldest and best Japanese gardens. It was built in the early Edo Period (1600-1867) at the Tokyo residence of the Mito branch of the ruling Tokugawa family.  The garden was named Korakuen after a poem encouraging a ruler to enjoy pleasure only after achieving happiness for his people. Koishikawa is the district in which the garden is located in (source - Japan-guide.com). This is one of the 7 such places appointed as the Special Place of scenic beauty and the Special Historic Site based on the Cultural Properties Protection Law of Japan. The only other place in Tokyo protected by this law is Hama Rikyuu which we also visited.

 Tsutsuji Chaya and canal area


We used up all the memory cards we brought along and all in all we have taken over 1000 pictures.  These are some of the images from 2 of the gardens.  More images from the other gardens will be added in due course (part II to follow).


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